Introduction to Italian Wine

by Tynan Szvetecz
Traveling in Italy  |  Foods and Drinks  |  Languages of Italy  |  Culture and History  Italian Art
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Each year, it is not uncommon for Italy to find itself at the top of a number of wine-related lists, not the least of which ranks it as the largest producer, exporter and consumer of wine in the world. This fact is all the more impressive when you consider that Italy is not a very large country - indeed it is less than three-quarters the size of California. Even considering the roughly 8 billion bottles of wine it produces each year, the country manages to stay true to wine styles that go back four thousand years. As a result, Italy not only has more local grape varieties than any other country, but it also has some of the most distinctive wines on Earth.

One of the major considerations with Italy's unique wine style is the wide range of diverse cultures that exist throughout its twenty wine regions. Each of these cultures has a robust sense of pride that translates directly into wine making. At best, understanding Italian wine is intimidating, at worst it seems all but impossible.

Like any journey of significance it's best to take it one step at a time. While Italian wine is both vastly complex and inconsistent, there are some concrete starting points.

First, let's take a look at the general qualities of Italian wine:

Italian wines tend to be
high in acidity - This is because wine with a strong showing of acidity tends to pair better with food. No surprise then that the food oriented cultures of Italy have opted for wine that compliments their amazing dedication to cuisine! This means white wines tend to be crisp and red wines tend to be firm.

Subdued, earthy aromas - One of the overriding characteristics of Italian wine is the touch of the land that one can smell and taste in every bottle. The nose might have hints of mushrooms, soil, minerals or grass. These qualities are commonly referred to as an earthiness that prevents the wine from competing with food.

Medium Body - Though there are some excellent heavier wines in Italy (such as Barolo), the majority are more medium bodied in nature. Again, more suitable to the wide array of food dishes that perform better when not overwhelmed by a heaviness.

Distinctly Italian Grapes - While Italy does grow most of the grapes found throughout the world, it also has many, many local varieties that are only grown in their respective regions. Nebbiolo, for example, is the grape used to make Barolo and is only found in Piedmont and Lombardy. Because the Italian climate is perfect for grape growing, many varieties have evolved over thousands of years to respond specifically to one region. As such, it is extraordinarily difficult to try and transplant them to different countries.

Read more about Major Italian Red Grapes and important Italian white wines
Trends, Travel Tips and  Culinary Traditions
Region by Region
About The Author
Tynan Szvetecz is an editor for http://www.savoreachglass.com, an international wine directory that is helping explore the spirit of wine for a new generation.
Traveling to Italy
Italian wines
Trends in Italy
Italian art and culture
Italian Food
Italian courses in Italy
History of Italy
Italian Wine for Dummies
by Mary Ewing-Mulligan (Author),
Ed McCarthy (Author)

Authored by certified wine educators and authors Ed McCarthy and Mary Ewing-Mulligan, Italian Wine For Dummies shows you how to:
  • Translate wine labels what the meanings are of common label terminology
  • pronounce Italian wine terms and names
  • how to order Italian wines in restaurants
  • Identify great wine bargains
  • Develop your own wine tastes
  • Match Italian wines with foods
This guide also explores Italy's important wine regions - including a region-by-region survey of the best vineyards and their products.
More information
Italian Wines 2007:
A Guide to the World of Italian Wine for Experts and Wine Lovers
by Gambero Rosso and Slow Food Editore

The world's most complete guide to quality Italian wines,  published by Gambero Rosso and Slow Food Editore.
Over 16,000 wines are reviewed, selected by a team of more than 120 tasters under the direction of GR and SFE.
Also includes a useful series of appendixes about award-winning wines in the past and the best producers.
The guide also pays special attention to wineries that are sensitive to the environment and to achieving naturalness in their products.

More information
Recommended Reading
See also:
Italian wine label rules
Italian wines
Italian wine regions
Introduction to Italian wine
Major Italian red and white wines